Skim the reading and questions first – it is a good idea to skim the reading first to get an understanding of what it is about and who it is written for. Look at the title of the reading, any subheadings, and pictures. Then look at the questions as the type of question will influence the strategies you use to complete them. You can learn the specific strategies for the different question types by looking at our IELTS Reading Lessons.
Read the instructions carefully – an important IELTS reading tip is to always read the questions carefully. The instructions differ for each question, for example telling you how many words you can use or whether you can take the words you will use directly from the text or not. So always read them to make sure you don’t lose marks just because you were doing things the wrong way.
Take care with spelling and grammar – you will lose the mark if your spelling or grammar are wrong, so make sure you check these carefully. There is no excuse for making a spelling error if you are just taking the word from the reading!
Highlight key words in the text – you will need to go back to the reading and scan it to find information to answer a question. So when you read the text, highlight such things as proper nouns (e.g. names of people, places, things). This is why it can be a good idea to look at the questions before you do the full reading – you will then have an idea of what kinds of things you may need to look for and therefore what it is a good idea to highlight.
Guess the meaning from context – unless you are a very proficient user of English, there will most likely be some or several words that you do not understand. When this happens, you should try and guess the meaning from the context. This means looking at the words and sentences around the word you don’t know so you can make an educated guess as to what it means. However, you don’t have much time, so do this as quickly as you can. Move on quickly though if you don’t know – the word may not be important anyway.
Start practice tests slowly – often IELTS reading tips will tell you to do practice tests, and it is correct that you should do these as much as you can as candidates often have problems with their timings. However, it is important to start out slowly until you get to know the questions, develop your skills and strategies and have decided the best way for you to approach the test. So don’t worry about timing yourself when you start out – relax, take your time and get to know all the different types of question.
Gradually increase your speed when you practice – as your knowledge of the IELTS reading test improves, you can then start to speed up. But don’t suddenly start trying to do the full reading practice test in 60 minutes – gradually increase the time you spend on each test until you are ready to tackle them in 60 minutes. The lower your level, the longer this will take.